Obama casts Romney as extremist on Medicare, women's health
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President Barack Obama, long accused by Republicans of pursuing a socialist agenda on healthcare and other policies, tried to cast his Republican rival Mitt Romney as an extremist on Medicare and women's health issues in their debate on Tuesday.
Obama went after Romney in response a question from the audience about what distinguished the former Massachusetts governor's positions from those of another Republican, former President George W. Bush.
George Bush didn't propose turning Medicare into a voucher, Obama said. George Bush never suggested that we eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood.
In some ways, Obama added, Romney had gone to a more extreme place when it comes to social policy.
It was one of the few moments in the debate that put the spotlight on health issues. And it gave Obama the chance to claim that his opponent's health policies were outside the mainstream, at a time when Reuters/Ipsos polling data indicate that Romney has begun to erase the president's lead when it comes to which candidate has a better plan for healthcare.
Obama's voucher comment referred to a Romney plan to convert the popular Medicare insurance program for the elderly and disabled into a system that would give future beneficiaries a fixed payment to help them buy coverage from private insurers or traditional Medicare.
The approach is broadly unpopular among voters including senior citizens, who oppose the idea of a premium support system by 2-to-1 ratios in opinion polls.
The president sought to paint Romney's Medicare plan as an idea that would have been beyond the pale for Bush, a staunch conservative who angered seniors by proposing the partial privatization of Social Security but who also expanded Medicare - and grew the federal deficit - by adding a new drug benefit program.
Obama also sought to hit Romney on women's health issues by targeting the Republican's pledge to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, the women's health network targeted by anti-abortion activists because abortions are among the health services it provides.
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